By Laura Childs
I adore creating and developing my characters – especially the ones who populate my Tea Shop Mysteries that are set in Charleston, SC. Out of all my series, I am asked the most questions about that particular one. With the inevitable question being “Are your characters based on real people?”
The answer to that is yes and no. Drayton, my tea expert who is the right-hand man to Theodosia, the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, is kind of-sort of based on an art director I used to work with. Just like my former art director, Drayton always dresses properly (bow ties, no less), gets his nose out of joint frequently, and is a bit of a nit-picker. If a silver spoon is smudged or a tea blend isn’t quite right, then watch out! For the most part, however, my characters are really quite fictional, since none of the people I know in real life are that clever, insidious, and devious, or act like out-of-control drama queens. Which is probably a very good thing.
The Indigo Tea Shop, where much of my stories take place, is also fictional. That said, I have gotten literally hundreds of letters and emails requesting directions to the Indigo Tea Shop. One dear lady even asked if I’d send her the interior plans for the tea shop – she apparently wanted to build a scale replica. Others have walked Church Street in Charleston and lamented that they were unable to locate the venerable tea shop. Still others have emailed me with requests to please put together a nice “tour itinerary” for them as they are heading to Charleston for a vacation. Which means I’ve probably been fairly successful in creating that “sense of place” that writers always struggle of achieve.
As far as tea goes, most of the teas I mention in my mysteries are readily available at your local tea shop, stores like Teavana, or the major online tea retailers. Then again, a few of the teas that are house blends from the Indigo Tea Shop were created solely in my imagination. These include the Lamplighter Blend, Palmetto Blend, and a Holiday Blend (black tea with dried cranberry, oranges, and Indian spice.) Lately, however, when I visit a tea shop and peruse their tea blends, I often spot a tea that is suspiciously close to a fictional tea blend I’ve mentioned in my book. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose.
Because of all the interest in the Tea Shop Mysteries, I’ve just started to write a sort of companion book that I’m calling Laura Childs: Living a Tea Shop Life – Drinking Tea, Finding Balance, and Reclaiming Your Creative Spirit.
I’ve interviewed dozens of tea shop owners and tea aficionados, put together about one hundred recipes, and written a section on life’s lessons learned from thirty plus years of working in advertising, television production, writing, and general business. So a little bit of fiction in this book, too, as well as a lot of fact.
I firmly believe that all writers are basically alchemists in drag. We take a few dry facts, put some fancy topspin on them, add a little sparkle dust, then weave them into a story we feel is worth telling and that we hope (oh, do we ever hope!) a reader might enjoy.
Laura Childs is the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries set in Charleston, SC, the Scrapbook Mysteries set in New Orleans, LA, and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Her books have been named to the New York Times Bestseller List and have been featured selections in the Literary Guild’s Mystery Book Club. She is a former Cleo Award-winning advertising writer and CEO of Mission Critical Marketing. She is currently co-executive producer of two reality television shows. www.laurachilds.com Laura Childs’ newest Tea Shop Mystery, Steeped in Evil, was published March 4, 2014 by Penguin Random House.